Up to our eyeballs

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    Officials paddled a boat out of a submerged local government building in Vietnam’s Hue this week. Sixty-one were confirmed dead in the typhoon, water was head-high in shops and homes and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chaired an emergency meeting on the disaster. 

    So far, so familiar. However, all this is just a few hours before the great and the good of the planet’s leaders gather in the country for the Asia-Pacific Summit’s photo ops and to draw up visiting lists for their coming terms.  Jacinda Ardern, a darling of the international media, will join leaders including US President Donald Trump, China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

    When water was spilled from local dams as a precaution for the summit, I was reminded of an earlier gathering of world leaders whose Summit motorcade was due to drive through a once-pretty UK town where most of the shops were boarded shut.

    Officials commissioned posters to paste over the derelict windows showing jolly, well-lit butchery, ye olde hardware and a bakery, presumably so that the grandees were not brought face to face with the realities of planetary indifference to the economic consequences of rampant inequalities.

    Even without the nightly litany of global disasters, it’s pretty obvious, even here, we have now entered the era in which what we do as a race will affect the future of the planet. Warm oceans (vast tracts of it laden with plastic) fuel hurricanes.
    World-wide, hills are falling on people.

    Tropical cloud cover that we seem to have had for months ourselves fuels tree growth (which is good) but rather noticeably, in March, tore huge numbers of ancient pohutukawa from the island’s coastal slopes they have held together for centuries.

    We also had head-high water in local businesses, massive loss of plant and vehicles and are missing some of the valuable local business located in our industrial Tahi Road. All of this came at great personal cost to the owners, the businesses themselves and the community at large.

    So it is particularly disturbing that the distant Auckland Council is backing out of resolving the problem of what is now designated a ‘flood plain’ that we only knew about after the massive Waste Management development was built at the roadside in the Okahuiti Creek stretch of road.

    It seems (see our story on page 10) the price tag to improve water clearance around its gigantic concrete pad and out to sea has now risen to $5 million. And, by the way, the water itself is contaminated by the former tip in the valley.

    Really? If this is what having an overblown and grossly overpaid Auckland Council ‘communications’ team looks like, it sucks (actually, it sucks anyway). For heaven’s sake, find a competent engineer.

    Mankind has been managing water since Biblical times. The Romans built a civilisation on it. Canal waterways were built from one end of Britain to the other in the 19th century.

    When it was closed, the former tip site at Okahuiti was carefully capped. If some of it is now exposed and contaminating the stormwater which will run to the sea, it should be remediated. Immediately.

    Any bureaucrat can complicate things, as we have noticed over many years of successive supercitys when it comes to almost any public works.

    If officials tell the local board that corrugated, dusty roads they might want sealed will cost a figure ten times as much to build on Waiheke (and Auckland) as it does everywhere else in the country, you can bet they will not be built.

    Nor is it good enough to tell our board – and the formerly thriving businesses that have been wrecked – that fixing up a major design flaw in a vast public-private tin barn on public land is going to cost some ridiculously overblown figure. And that they will have to wait five years for funding.

    Least of all if contaminated water is flowing to the sea. • Liz Waters

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